A couple weeks ago, I decided to head on over to Chinese Corner with my fellow GEF and Intermediate Chinese classmate, Louise Kuehster. We ended up being the only ones there to practice our Chinese which was good because we had more opportunity to practice, but bad because it showed how little representation Chinese language learning has at OU.
We were then introduced to Emma, an enthusiastic Chinese teacher who was eager to help us put our classroom learning to practice. The first rule of Chinese Corner was that we could ONLY speak in Chinese. Emma supplied paper and pens to add illustration to our conversation and help clarify new words. At first, it was difficult to get started and words came to me slowly. Then as we began talking, I was able to understand what Emma and Louise said more easily. We even began to talk about our childhood pets, the last topic I would expect myself speaking about in Chinese. But I did not expect it to be so exhausting. Just one hour of immersion in the Chinese language had me mentally and physically fatigued. On the one hand, I was surprised at the broad range of topics I found myself able to speak about, but on the other hand, I realized just how limited my vocabulary is. I realized that I could only describe situations using basic adjectives and vague scribbles on paper. It was also helpful to realize what a semester studying abroad in China might look like–exhausting yet exhilarating.
I think that Chinese Corner, or any language immersion practice program, is a must for anyone who is serious about becoming fluent! In fact, practicing to speak and listen should be incorporated more into the language learning programs at OU. Perhaps a “discussion” section outside of a regular lecture section could provide the venue to strengthen one’s conversational skills. The way I see it, the conversational aspect of learning a language is the most practical and important. Communicating with a person is far more important than being able to write an essay with perfect grammar.
In the future, I hope to attend Chinese Corner again, and bring a few more of my classmates so they can experience immersion as well!